German People In War
( Originally Published 1917 )
WITH the declaration of war the ultimate power in Germany was transferred from the civil to the military authorities.
At five o'clock on the afternoon of Friday, and immediately after the declaration of a State of War, the Guard of the Grenadier Regiment Kaiser Alexander, under the command of a Lieutenant with four drummers, took its place before the monument of Frederick the Great in the middle of the Unter den Linden. The drummers sounded a ruffle on their drums and the Lieu-tenant read an order beginning with the words "By all highest order: A State of War is proclaimed in Berlin and in the Province of Brandenburg." This order was signed by General von Kessel as Over-Commander of the Mark of Brandenburg; and stated that the complete power was transferred to him; that the civil officials might remain in office, but must obey the orders and regulations of the Over-Commander; that house searchings and arrests by officials thereto empowered could take place at any time ; that strangers who could not show good reason for remaining in Berlin, had twenty-four hours in which to leave; that the sale of weapons, powder and explosives to civilians was forbidden; and that civilians were forbidden to carry weapons without permission of the proper authorities.
The same transfer of authority took place in each army corps Bezirk, or province or district in Germany; and in each army corps district or province the commanding general took over the ultimate power. In Berlin it was necessary to create a new officer, the Over-Commander of the Mark, because two army corps, the third and the army corps of the guards, had their headquarters in Berlin. These army corps commanders were not at all bashful about the use of the power thus transferred to them. Some of them even prescribed the length of the dresses to be worn by the women; and many women, having followed the German sport custom of wearing knickerbockers in the winter sports resorts of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the Generalkommando, or Headquarters for Bavaria issued in January, 1917, the following order: "The appearance of many women in Garmisch-Partenkirchen has excited lively anger and indignation in the population there. This bitterness is directed particularly against certain women, frequently of ripe age, who do not engage in sports, but nevertheless show themselves in public continually clad in knickerbockers. It has even happened that women so dressed have visited churches during the service. Such behaviour is a cruelty to the earnest minds of the mountain population and, in con-sequence, there are often many disagreeable occurrences in the streets. Officials, priests and private citizens have turned to the Generalkommando with the request for help; and the Generalkommando has, therefore, em-powered the district officials in Garmisch-Partenkirchen to take energetic measures against this misconduct; if necessary with the aid of the police."
I spent two days at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in February, 1916. Some of the German girls looked very well in their "knickers," but I agree with the Generalkommando that the appearance of some of the older women was "cruelty" not only to the "earnest mountain population" but to any observer.
These corps commanders are apparently responsible direct to the Emperor; and therefore much of the diffculty that I had concerning the treatment of prisoners was due to this system, as each corps commander considered himself supreme in his own district not only over the civil and military population but over the prison camps within his jurisdiction.
On the fourth of August, 1914, a number of laws were passed, which had been evidently prepared long in advance, making various changes made necessary by war, such as alteration of the Coinage Law, the Bank Law, and the Law of Maximum Prices. Laws as to the high prices were made from time to time. For instance, the law of the twenty-eighth of October, 1914, provided in detail the maximum prices for rye in different parts of Germany. The maximum price at wholesale per German ton of native rye must not exceed 220 marks in Berlin, 236 marks in Cologne, 209 marks in Koenigsberg, 228 marks in Hamburg, 235 marks in Frankfort.
The maximum price for the German ton of native wheat was set at forty marks per ton higher than the above rates for rye. This maximum price was made with reference to deliveries without sacks and for cash payments.
The law as to the maximum prices applied to all objects of daily necessity, not only to food and fodder but to oil, coal and wood. Of course, these maximum prices were changed from time to time, but I think I can safely state that at no time in the war, while I was in Berlin, were the simple foods more expensive than in New York.
The so-called "war bread," the staple food of the population, which was made soon after the commencement of the war, was composed partially of rye and potato flour. It was not at all unpalatable, especially when toasted; and when it was seen that the war would not be as short as the Germans had expected, the bread cards were issued. That is, every Monday morning each person was given a card which had annexed to it a number of little perforated sections about the size of a quarter of a postage stamp, each marked with twenty-five, fifty or one hundred. The total of these figures constituted the allowance of each person in grammes per week. The person desiring to buy bread either at a baker's or in a restaurant must turn in these little stamped sections for an amount equivalent to the weight of bread purchased. Each baker was given a certain amount of meal at the commencement of each week, and he had to account for this meal at the end of the week by turning in its equivalent in bread cards.
As food became scarce, the card system was applied to meat, potatoes, milk, sugar, butter and soap. Green vegetables and fruits were exempt from the card system, as were for a long time chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and game. Because of these exemptions the rich usually managed to live well, although the price of a goose rose to ridiculous heights. There was, of course, much under-ground traffic in cards and sales of illicit or smuggled butter, etc. The police were very stern in their enforcement of the law and the manager of one of the largest hotels in Berlin was taken to prison because he had made the servants give him their allowance of butter, which he in turn sold to the rich guests of the hotel.
No one over six years of age at the time I left could get milk without a doctor's certificate. One result of this was that the children of the poor were surer of obtaining milk than before the war, as the women of the Frauendienst and social workers saw to it that each child had its share.
The third winter of the war, owing to a breakdown of means of transportation and want of laborers, coal be-came very scarce. All public places, such as theatres, picture galleries, museums, and cinematograph shows, were closed in Munich for want of coal. In Berlin the suffering was not as great but even the elephants from Hagenbeck's Show were pressed into service to draw the coal carts from the railway stations.
Light was economized. All the apartment houses (and all Berlin lives in apartment houses) were closed at nine o'clock. Stores were forbidden to illuminate their show windows and all theatres were closed at ten. Only every other street electric light was lit; of the three lights in each lamp, only one.
As more and more men were called to the front, women were employed in unusual work. The new underground road in Berlin is being built largely by woman labour. This is not so difficult a matter in Berlin as in New York, because Berlin is built upon a bed of sand and the difficulties of rock excavation do not exist. Women are employed on the railroads, working with pickaxes on the road-bed. Women drive the great yellow post carts of Berlin. There were women guards on the underground road, women conductors on the tramways and women even become motor men on the tramcars. Banks, insurance companies and other large business institutions were filled with women workers who invaded the sacred precincts of many military and governmental offices.
A curious development of the hate of all things foreign was the hunt led by the Police President of Berlin, von Jagow (a cousin of the Foreign Minister), for foreign words, Von Jagow and his fellow cranks decided that all words of foreign origin must be expunged from the German language. The title of the Hotel Bristol on the Linter den Linden disappeared. The Hotel Westminster on the same street became Lindenhof. There is a large hotel called "The Cumberland," with a pastry department over which there was a sign, the French word, Confisserie. The management was compelled to take this sign down, but the hotel was allowed to retain the name of Cumberland, because the father-in-law of the Kaiser's only daughter is the Duke of Cumberland. The word "chauffeur" was eliminated, and there were many discussions as to what should be substituted. Many declared for Kraftwagenfuhrer or "power wagon driver." But finally the word was Germanised as "Schauffoer." Prussians took down the sign, Confektion, but the climax came when the General in command of the town of Breslau wrote a confectioner telling him to stop the use of the word "bonbon" in selling his candy. The confectioner, with a sense of humour and a nerve unusual in Germany, wrote back to the General that he would gladly discontinue the use of the word "bonbon" when the General ceased to call himself "General," and called the attention of this high military authority to the fact that "General" was as much a French word as "bonbon."
Unusual means were adopted in order to get all the gold coins in the country into the Imperial Bank. There were signs in every surface and underground car which read, "Whoever keeps back a gold coin injures the Fatherland." And if a soldier presented to his superiors a twenty mark gold piece, he received in return twenty marks in paper money and two days leave of absence. In like manner a school boy who turned in ten marks in gold received ten marks in paper and was given a half holiday. Cinematograph shows gave these patrons who paid in gold an extra ticket, good for another day. An American woman residing at Berlin was awakened one morning at eight o'clock by two police detectives who told her that they had heard that she had some gold coins in her possession, and that if she did not turn them in for paper money they would wreck her apartment in their search for them. She, therefore, gave them the gold which I afterwards succeeded in getting the German Government to return to her. Later, the export of gold was forbidden, and even travellers arriving with gold were compelled to give it up in return for paper money.
While, of course, I cannot ascertain the exact amounts, I found, nevertheless, that great quantities of food and other supplies came into Germany from Holland and the Scandinavian countries, particularly from Sweden. Now that we are in the war we should take strong measures and cut off exports to these countries which export food, raw material, etc. to Germany. Sweden is particularly active in this traffic, but I understand that sulphur pyrites are sent from Norway, and sulphuric acid made therefrom is an absolute essential to the manufacture of munitions of war.
Potash, which is found as a mineral only in Germany and Austria, was used in exchange of commodities with Sweden and in this way such copper, lard, etc., reached Germany.
Early in the summer of 1915, the first demonstration took place in Berlin. About five hundred women collected in front of the Reichstag building. They were promptly suppressed by the police and no newspaper printed an account of the occurrence. These women were rather vague in their demands. They called von Buelow an old fat-head for his failure in Italy and complained that the whipped cream was not so good as before the war. There was some talk of high prices for food, and the women all said that they wanted their men back from the trenches.
Early summer brought also a number of cranks to Berlin. Miss Jane Addams and her fellow suffragists, after holding a convention in Holland, moved on Berlin. I succeeded in getting both the Chancellor and von Jagow to consent to receive them, a meeting to which they looked forward with unconcealed perturbation. However, one of them seems to have impressed Miss Addams, for, as I write this, I read in the papers that she is complaining that we should not have gone to war because we thereby risk hurting somebody's feelings.
On July twenty-seventh, 1915, I reported that I had learned that the Germans were picking out the Revolutionists and Liberals from the many Russian prisoners of war, furnishing them with money and false passports and papers, and sending them back to Russia to stir up a revolution.
A German friend of mine told me that a friend of his who manufactured field glasses had received a large order from the Bulgarian Government. This manufacturer went to the Foreign Office and asked whether he should deliver the goods. He was told not only to deliver them but to do it as quickly as possible. By learning of this I was able to predict long in advance the entry of Bulgaria on the side of the Central powers.
Even a year after the commencement of the war there were reasonable people in Germany. I met Bailin, head of the great Hamburg American Line, on August ninth. I said to him, "When are you going to stop this crazy fighting?" The next day Bailin called on me and said that the sensible people of Germany wanted peace and that without annexation. He told me that every one was afraid to talk peace, that each country thought it a sign of weakness, and that he had advised the Chancellor to put a statement in an official paper to say that Germany fought only to defend herself and was ready to make an honourable peace. He told me that the Emperor at that time was against the annexation of Belgium.
In calculating the great war debt built up by Germany, it must not be forgotten that German municipalities and other political districts have incurred large debts for war purposes, such as extra relief given to the wives and children of soldiers.
In November, 1915, there were food disturbances and a serious agitation against a continuance of the war; and, in Leipzig, a Socialist paper was suppressed.
The greatest efforts were made at all times to get in gold; and some time before I left Germany an advertisement was published in the newspapers requesting Germans to give up their jewelry for the Fatherland. Many did so: among them, I believe, the Empress and other royalties.
In December, 1915, a prominent banker in Berlin said to me that the Germans were sick of the war; that the Krupps and other big industries were making great sums of money and were prolonging the war by insisting upon the annexation of Belgium; and that the Junkers were also in favour of the continuance of the war because of the fact that they were getting four or five times the money for their products while their work was being done by prisoners. He said that the Kaufleute (merchant middle class) will have to pay the cost of the war and that the Junkers will not be taxed.
In December, butter became very scarce and the women waiting in long lines before the shops often rushed the shops. In this month many copper roofs were removed from buildings in Berlin. I was told by a friend in the Foreign Office that the notorious von Rintelen was sent to America to buy up the entire product of the Dupont powder factories, and that he exceeded his authority if he did anything else.
In December, on the night of the day of the peace interpellation in the Reichstag a call was issued by placards for a meeting on the Unter den Linden. I went out on the streets during the afternoon and found that the police had so carefully divided the city into districts that it was impossible for a crowd of any size to gather on the Unter den Linden. There was quite a row at the session in the Reichstag. Scheidemann, the Socialist, made a speech very moderate in tone; but he was answered by the Chancellor and then an endeavour was made to close the debate. The Socialists made such a noise, however, that the majority gave way and another prominent Socialist, Landsberger, was allowed to speak for the Socialists. He also made a reasonable speech in the course of which he said that even Socialists would not allow Alsace-Lorraine to go back to France. He made use of a rather good phrase, saying that the "Dis-United States of Europe were making war to make a place for the United States of America."
The banks sent out circulars to all holders of safe deposit boxes, asking them to disclose the contents. This was part of the campaign to get in hoarded gold.
In January, 1916, we had many visitors. S. S. McClure, Hermann Bernstein, Inez Milholland Boissevain, all of the Ford Peace Ship appeared in Berlin. I introduced Mrs. Boissevain to Zimmermann who admired her extremely.
In January, 1916, I visited Munich and from there a Bavarian officer prison camp and the prison camp for private soldiers, both at Ingolstadt. I also conferred with Archdeacon Nies of the American Episcopal Church who carried on a much needed work in visiting the prison camps in Bavaria.
The American Colony in Munich maintained with the help of friends in America, a Red Cross hospital under the able charge of Dr. Jung, a Washington doctor, and his wife. The nursing was done by American and German girls. The American Colony at Munich also fed a number of school children every day. I regret to say, however, that many of the Americans in Munich were loud in their abuse of President Wilson and their native country.
In March, 1916, I was sounded on the question of Germany's sending an unofficial envoy, like Colonel House, to America to talk informally to the President and prominent people. I was told that Solf would probably be named.
In 1916, the importation of many articles of luxury into Germany was forbidden. This move was naturally made in order to keep money in the country.
A Dane who had a quantity of manganese in Brazil sold it to a Philadelphia firm for delivery to the United States Steel Company. The German Government in some way learned of this and the Dane was arrested and put in jail. His Minister had great difficulty in getting him out.
Liebknecht, in April of 1916, made matters lively at the Reichstag sessions. During the Chancellor's speech, Liebknecht interrupted him and said that the Germans were not free; next he denied that the Germans had not wished war; and, another time, he called attention to the attempts of the Germans to induce the Mohammedan and Irish prisoners of war to desert to the German side. Liebknecht finally enraged the government supporters by calling out that the subscription to the loan was a swindle.
After the Sussex settlement I think that the Germans wished to inaugurate an era of better feeling between Germany and the United States. At any rate, and in answer to many anonymous attacks made against me, the North German Gazette, the official newspaper, published a sort of certificate from the government to the effect that I was a good boy and that the rumours of my bitter hostility to Germany were unfounded.
In May, 1916, Wertheim, head of the great department store in Berlin, told me that they had more business than in peace times.
Early in June I had two long talks with Prince von Buelow. He speaks English well and is suspected by his enemies of having been polishing it up lately in order to make ready for possible peace conferences. He is a man of a more active brain than the present Chancellor, and is very restless and anxious in some way to break into the present political situation.
In June, the anonymous attacks on von Bethmann-Hollweg by pamphlet and otherwise, incensed him to such a degree that he made an open answer in the Reich-stag and had rather the best of the situation. Many anonymous lies and rumours were flying about Berlin at this period, and even Helfferich had to deny publicly the anonymous charges that he had been anonymously at-tacking the Chancellor.
In July, the committee called the National Committee for an Honourable Peace was formed with Prince Wedel at its head. Most of the people in this League were friends of von Bethmann-Hollweg, and one of the three real heads was the editor of the Frankfurter Zeitung, the Chancellor's organ. It was planned that fifty speakers from this committee would begin to speak all over Germany on August first, but when they began to speak their views were so dissimilar and the speeches of most of them so ridiculous that the movement failed.
In August, I spent two Saturdays and Sundays at Heringsdorf, a summer resort on the Baltic. Before going there I had to get special permission from the military authorities through the Foreign Office, as foreigners are not allowed to reside on the coast of Germany. Regulations that all windows must be darkened at night and no lights shown which could be seen from the sea were strictly enforced by the authorities.
There are three bathing places. In each of them the bath houses, etc. surround three sides of a square, the sea forming the fourth side. Bathing is allowed only on this fourth side for a space of sixty-five yards long. One of these bathing places is for women and one for men, and the third is the so-called Familienbad (family bath) where mixed bathing is allowed. German women are very sensible in the matter of their bathing costumes and do not wear the extraordinary creations seen in America. They wear bathing sandals but no stockings, and, as most of them have fine figures but dress badly, they appear at their best at Heringsdorf. Both sea and air seemed somewhat cold for bathing. On account of their sensible dress, most of the German women are expert swimmers.
I noticed one very handsome blonde girl who sat on her bathing mantle exciting the admiration of the beach because of her fine figure. She suddenly dived into the pockets of the bathing mantle and produced an enormous black bread sandwich which she proceeded to consume quite unconsciously, after which she swam out to sea. No healthy German can remain long separated from food; and I noticed in the prospectus of the different boarding-houses at Heringsdorf that patrons were offered, in addition to about four meals or more a day, an extra sandwich to take to the beach to be consumed during the bathing hour.
There is a beautiful little English church in Berlin which was especially favoured by the Kaiser's mother during her life. Because of this, the Kaiser permitted this church to remain open, and the services were continued during the war. The pastor, Rev. Mr. Williams, obtained permission to visit the British prisoners, and most devotedly travelled from one prison camp to an-other. Both he and his sister, whose charitable work for the British deserves mention, were at one time thrown into jail, charged with spying.
I at first attended the hybrid American church, but when, in 1915, I think, the committee hired a German woman preacher I ceased to attend. The American, the Reverend Dr. Crosser, who was in charge when I arrived in Berlin left, to my everlasting regret, in the spring before the war.
Poor Creelman, the celebrated newspaper correspondent, died in Berlin. We got him into a good hospital and some one from the Embassy visited him every day.
The funeral services were conducted in the American Church by the Rev. Dr. Dickie, long a resident of Berlin, whose wife had presented the library to the American church. The Foreign Office sent Herr Horstmann as its representative.
While today all royalties and public men pose for the movies, Czar Ferdinand of Bulgaria and his family are probably the first royalties to act in a cinematograph. In 1916, there was released in Berlin a play in which Czar Ferdinand of Bulgaria, his wife and two daughters by a former wife appeared, acting as Bulgarian royalties in the development of the plot.
The difference between von Jagow and Zimmermann was that von Jagow had lived abroad, had met people from all countries and knew that there was much to learn about the psychology of the inhabitants of countries other than Germany. Zimmermann, in the early part of his career, had been consul at Shanghai ; and, on his way back, had passed through America, spending two days in San Francisco and three in New York. He seemed to think that this transcontinental trip had given him an intimate knowledge of American character. Von Jagow, on the other hand, almost as soon as war began, spent many hours talking to me about America and borrowed from me books and novels on that country. The novel in which he took the greatest interest was "Turmoil," by Booth Tarkington.
I think there must have been a period quite recently when the German Government tried to imbue the people with a greater degree of frightfulness, because all of us in visiting camps, etc. observed that the landsturm men or older soldiers were much more merciful than the younger ones.
Alexander Cochran, a New York yachtsman, volunteered to become a courier between the London Embassy and ours. On his first trip, although he had two passports (his regular passport and a special courier's pass-port), he was arrested and compelled to spend the night on the floor of the guard-room at the frontier town of Bentheim. This ended his aspirations to be a courier. He is now a commander in the British Navy, having joined it with his large steam yacht, the Warrior some time before the United States entered the war. In the piping times of peace he had been the guest of the Emperor at Kiel .
A British prisoner, who escaped from Ruhleben, was caught in a curious manner. Prisoners in Ruhleben received bread from outside, as I have explained in the chapter on prisoners of war. This bread is white, something unknown in Germany since the war. The escaped prisoner took with him some sandwiches made of the bread he had received in Ruhleben and most incautiously ate one of these sandwiches in a railway station. He was immediately surrounded by a crowd of Germans anxious to know where he had obtained the white bread, and, in this way, was detected and returned to prison.
On our way out in September, 1916, we were given a large dinner in Copenhagen by our skilful minister there, the Hon. Maurice F. Egan, who has devoted many years of his life to the task of adding the three beautiful Danish islands to the dominions of the United States. He is an able diplomat, very popular in Copenhagen, where he is dean of the diplomatic corps. At this dinner we met Countess Hegerman-Lindencron, whose interesting books, "The Sunny Side of Diplomatic Life" and "The Courts of Memory," have had a large circulation in America. In Copenhagen, too, both on the way out and in, we lunched with Count Rantzau-Brockedorff, then German Minister there. Count Rantzau is skilful and wily, and not at all military in his instincts; and, I should say, far more inclined to arrive at a reasonable compromise than the average German diplomat. He is a charming International, with none of the rough points and aggressive manners which characterise so many Prussian officials.
In judging the German people, we must remember that, while they have made great progress in the last forty years in commerce and chemistry, the very little liberty they possess is a plant of very recent growth. About the year 1780, Frederick the Great having sent some money to restore the burned city of Greiffenberg, in Silesia, the magistrates of that town called upon him to thank him. They kneeled and their spokesman said, "We render unto your Majesty in the name of the inhabitants of Greiffenberg, our humble thanks for the most gracious gift which your Majesty deigned to bestow in aid and to assist us in rebuilding our homes.
"The gratitude of such dust as we, is, as we are aware, of no moment or value to you. We shall, however, implore God to grant your Majesty His divine favours in return for your royal bounty."
Too many Germans, today, feel that they are mere dust before the almost countless royalties of the German Empire. And these royalties are too prone to feel that the kingdoms, dukedoms and principalities of Germany and their inhabitants are their private property. The Princes of Nassau and Anspach and Hesse, at the time of our Revolution, sold their unfortunate subjects to the British Government to be exported to fight the Americans. Our American soil covers the bones of many a poor German peasant who gave up his life in a war from which he gained nothing.
When Frederick the Great, the model and exemplar of all German royalties, died in 1786, he disposed of the Kingdom of Prussia in his will as if it had been one of his horses. "I bequeath unto my dear nephew, Frederick William, as unto my immediate successor, the Kingdom of Prussia, the provinces, towns, palaces, forts, fortresses, all ammunition and arsenals, all lands mine by inheritance or right of conquest, the crown jewels, gold and silver service of plate in Berlin, country houses, collections of coins, picture galleries, gardens, and so forth." Contrast this will with the utterances of Washington and Hamilton made at the same time !
In the Grand Duchies of Mecklenburg, serfdom was not abolished until 1819.
The spies and the influencers of American correspondents made their headquarters at a large Berlin hotel. A sketch of their activities is given by de Beaufort in his book, "Behind the German Veil."
Among the American correspondents in Berlin during the war great credit should be given to Carl W. Ackerman and Seymour B. Conger, correspondents of the United and Associated Presses respectively, who at all times and in spite of their surroundings and in the face of real difficulties preserved their Americanism unimpaired and refused to succumb to the alluring temptations held out to them. I do not mean to imply that the other correspondents were not loyal, but the pro-Germanism of many of them unfortunately gave the Imperial Foreign Office and the great general staff a wrong impression of Americans. It is the splendid patriotism under fire of Ackerman and Conger that deserves special mention.